TRENTON, N.J. – A new proposal by Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce would eliminate the Schools Development Authority and transfer its responsibilities to the Department of Treasury’s Division of Property Management & Construction.
“We have an existing branch of state government that can effectively perform the duties of the SDA with more efficiency and accountability,” said DeCroce (R-Morris). “It will provide executive branch oversight and governance controls over hiring and spending practices.”
The SDA, which manages the construction and improvement of schools in 31 of the state’s poorest communities, is being investigated by the attorney general’s office for its hiring practices and recent allegations of employee file tampering. The authority has been accused of creating a patronage pit by hiring unqualified but personally-connected staff.
This week, DeCroce sent letters requesting support from Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Speaker Craig Coughlin and Assemblyman John Burzichelli (who is prime sponsor of bill S3268 that folds the SDA into the Economic Development Authority).
She wrote, “Placing the SDA into a department will make it more accountable to the administration and legislature while also making their budget more transparent.”
DeCroce is against moving the SDA into another authority like the EDA that is “in shambles independently.” The EDA is also at the center of controversy. The comptroller issued an audit that revealed the authority may have improperly awarded billions in tax incentives.
“[Moving the SDA to the Division of Property Management & Construction] is the right strategy because it is critical that we ensure the services provided by the SDA are offered in a professional and transparent manner,” wrote DeCroce.
The division oversees the procurement of construction contracts for public works buildings for state agencies, leases for office and warehouse space, and the operation and maintenance of state-owned facilities.
Under DeCroce’s legislation, which she plans to introduce at the next quorum, the EDA would retain its responsibility for financing school construction projects.